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Further Adventures In Precocious Publishing

Illustration for article titled Further Adventures In Precocious Publishing

Remember the 9-year-old kid who wrote a how to pick-up chicks guide that was just so gosh-darn adorable it was optioned to make a movie called The Ballad Of Doogie Bowser, Kid Pick-Up Artist: Kids Say The Sleaziest Things  (working title)? Well, now he's 10 and hoping to get his fourth book (How To Talk To Santa, last in a line that includes How To Talk To Girls, How To Talk To Moms, and How To Talk To Dads) published before puberty hits and "precocious" gives way to "obnoxious." Unfortunately, according to this article in USA Today, it's way too late:

So who's the second-smartest kid in his class?

"I am." [10-year-old author Alec Greven says]

His mother, Erin Greven, bursts into laughter and exclaims, "Alec!"

"Really," he says. "I'm not bragging. But I'm nothing like Reagan. He knows so much stuff."


Don't laugh, mom. You're only encouraging him. One day, probably next year, he'll be spitballing some adorable truisms for his forthcoming book, How To Talk To Lamps—you know,  just bouncing ideas off of whatever furniture happens to be around—and he'll say, "Lamps don't like being left on all the time." He'll flash his most impish smile, and pause for the requisite cascade of How-Cute! laughter. But this time no laughter will come. Instead Alec will be left standing in the cruel silence with his blue five-star notebook and dozens of Crayola markers scattered at his feet (what he calls his "office supplies") and for the first time he'll feel the icy indifference of the world at large.     

Of course, it's not Alec's fault he's become the very annoying face of precocious publishing. It's the fault of every adult around him:

He'd rather discuss books than TV or video games, but can be mischievous. On a tour of his home, [Alec] points out a bar in the living room, "where Dad makes mojitos." Eric Greven later says: "I've done that a few times. Alec has a remarkable memory."

"Ha ha ha, quite a memory on that kid," Eric Greven added. "I've only made mojitos maybe 3, 4 times in my life! Now if you'll excuse me I have to go punis—I mean, quiz Alec on his talking points for his Ellen appearance on Tuesday." Then there's the publisher:

Kate Jackson, editor in chief of HarperCollins' Children's Books, has seen scores of submissions from kids, often "sweet and cute, but never at the level of being publishable." Alec's book was different: "A great idea that was well executed." So was the author: "Such a winning personality." How to Talk to Girls grew to 42 pages, with simple line drawings by Kei Acedera, a professional illustrator. After it became a best seller, translated into 17 languages, Alec signed to do three more, including How to Talk to Santa, out in November.

"It's finished," he reports. "HarperCollins just needs to get it out there."

His mom laughs. He asks, "Did I say something wrong?"

He says his editors are "nice. Mostly, they ask me to expand. They make the books better."

USA Today doesn't say whether or not Alec sounded panicked when he thought he said the wrong thing, but it's easy to imagine that he was. Especially when you consider this:

His parents say they try not to interfere with Alec's writing, although his mother confesses she had him delete a few things about moms that hit too close to home.

Next, Alec may write How to Talk to Teachers, an idea endorsed by his teachers.

"Oh, it was just a few little things," Alec's mom explained. "You know like, 'Moms get testy when you're late with your manuscript.' 'Moms like to remind you of the committment you made to your publisher.' 'Moms promise ice cream for clean copy and cute soundbites.' Just a few things that I didn't think non-author kids and moms of non-author kids could relate to."


Instead of How To Talk To Teachers, Alec should start work on How To Talk To A Photo Of Yourself (Without Crying) From Back When You Were Just A Cute Kid, And No One Hated You.